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Alice Walker and Bob Moses Reflect on an Obama Presidency and the Struggle for African Americans to Vote

Pulitzer Prize-winner Walker and civil rights hero Moses on the struggles that paved the way for Obama's success.

Bob Moses is one of the leading civil rights icons from the 1960s. He was the former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC. The New York Times once wrote, "In Mississippi, Bob Moses was the equivalent of Martin Luther King.” Moses is also the founder of the Algebra Project, a foundation devoted to improving minority education in math. Author, poet and activist Alice Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for her book The Color Purple . She has written many other best-selling books, including In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens and Possessing the Secret of Joy .

Goodman: We're going to go to that clip of Dr. Martin Luther King; it was four years before he was assassinated. And on this day that is the inauguration of the first African American president, we go back in time, on this day after the federal holiday celebrating Dr. King's birthday. King was interviewed by the BBC. I think it was in 1964. He was asked if he thought it was at all realistic that an African American could become U.S. president within 40 years.

    Bob McKenzie: Robert Kennedy, when he was attorney general, said that he could imagine the possibility of a Negro president in the United States within perhaps 40 years. Do you think this is at all realistic?

    The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: Well, let me say first that I think it is necessary to make it clear that there are Negroes who are presently qualified to be president of the United States. There are many who are qualified in terms of integrity, in terms of vision, in terms of leadership ability. But we do know that there are certain problems and prejudices and mores in our society which make it difficult now.

    However, I am very optimistic about the future. Frankly, I have seen certain changes in the United States over the last two years that surprise me. I've seen levels of compliance with the Civil Rights Bill and changes that have been most surprising. So, on the basis of this, I think we may be able to get a Negro president in less than 40 years. I would think that this could come in 25 years or less.

Goodman: Bob Moses is one of the leading civil rights icons from the 1960s. He joins us from a studio in Boston. I am joined here in Washington with a special guest. Alice Walker will be joining us for our entire live coverage of the inauguration, co-hosting with me. Her most recent book is We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness .

We welcome you both to Democracy Now. It is an honor, Alice, to co-host with you today's live inauguration coverage. Why don't we begin with your feelings today?

Walker: Amy, I'm so incredibly happy to be here with you. I have such respect for Democracy Now, and everything that I've been hearing from the concert moved me deeply. I'm feeling wonderful. I feel very happy. I feel that we have a chance now as a country to take our rightful place in the leadership of the world and in the caring of the world.

Goodman: Bob, as you join us from Boston, your thoughts? Did you ever think you would see this day?

Moses: Not actually. I didn't share King's optimism. And, you know, I was listening to the question, because the person from BBC said when Bobby Kennedy "was attorney general,” so he must have been talking to King after Bobby Kennedy left the attorney generalship. So it sounds to me like it was a little later than 1964. But I didn't share King's optimism.